By Darren Waters
BBC News technology staff
Is Gran Turismo 4 really a video game? It may seem an odd question but it is one that comes to mind after playing GT4 for even for just a few hours.
Possibly the most sophisticated game around
GT4 is unquestionably the most detailed, hyper-real racing simulation ever made for a computer.
It features hundreds of cars, a myriad of racing tracks and locations, more configurable options than a custom-built TVR.
It has a level of graphical detail that belies PlayStation 2's ageing innards.
But the fact is GT4 transcends the notion of video game. It is a higher form of interactive entertainment that points to a future of almost frightening depth.
Is it fun? Well, that depends.
GT4 is the latest racing simulator by Kazunori Yamauchi. What started way back in 1997 as an ground-breaking title, has matured into a franchise that is trying to simulate racing to the Nth degree.
The game is broken down into two main elements - arcade and GT mode.
Arcade, unsurprisingly, is the mode for a quick pick-up-and-play session, while GT is for people willing to invest many hours of play and want to be able to configure almost every aspect of their car and its engine.
The challenge of GT4 is that in order to enjoy the game - and only by enjoying it will you succeed - you have to learn how to drive each and every one of the cars.
They all feel distinctly different to drive and while I have never actually driven any of the world's supercars, this is the closest I will ever come to haring around the Nurburgring in a Ford GT40.
In order to start playing GT mode you need to pass a number of licence tests, which are challenging and may deter the casual gamer.
Once licensed, you start with a VW Lupo, which is probably the best incentive of all to progress so that you can get behind the wheel of some decent vehicles.
The game is staggeringly huge and many, many hours will be required to accomplish any of the goals of the game.
GRAN TURISMO 4
Enduring appeal: 9
And if you need a break from racing, you can try out the game's bizarre photo mode in which you can print off high resolution images on a USB printer of your favourite cars in the most stunning locations.
It is strangely addictive. The cars all look sumptuous and the racing tracks and locations are impeccably detailed.
Feel the force
One only has to play the game's predecessor for a few minutes to appreciate the difference.
With such quality on offer it makes one wonder why we need PlayStation 3 in the next 12 months.
The humble PS2 is still capable of astonishing feats.
There are gripes, of course: the AI of the opponent cars is still hit and miss, the lack of damage collision can turn some bends into a bumper car affair and the omission of an online mode is disappointing.
But you can link up PS2s to race against each other, even if that element of gaming has not really taken off in PlayStation circles.
So I go back to my earlier questions. Is it fun?
If you love racing games and have time and patience, then yes, GT4 is inordinately fun.
But get yourself a force feedback steering wheel as the PS2 controller is not good enough to cope with the demands of GT4.
Is it a video game? Yes it is, but perhaps arguably the most sophisticated video game ever produced for a console.